Immigration: What Should Lawmakers Do?


Nobody should think--lawmakers included--that illegal aliens are in their situation by choice. Given the option, most if not all would welcome the possibility of becoming a law-abiding citizen of this country.

Nobody should think--lawmakers included--that illegal aliens are in their situation by choice. Given the option, most if not all would welcome the possibility of becoming a law-abiding citizen of this country.

 

Given the opportunity, all illegal immigrants want to establish legal citizenship. The problem is they are not given the opportunity. They are asked to wash our dishes, mow our lawns, care for our children and clean our houses, but in return they are not given the possibility to become citizens.

                       

Most undocumented immigrants are undocumented because of a thousand and one circumstances that have made them be the way they are. Need, hunger and the lack of opportunity draw people away from their homelands to find "nuevos horizontes." The problem is that now, after they have found a new homeland, that homeland is not opening its doors to them. They are accepted outdoors, but they are not welcome indoors.

 

The trip is not free for any of them. On their way to a new life they find themselves estranged, abused, ill-treated, harassed and annoyed. Many die of thirst or just weariness in the Arizona desert. The worst thing for them is not deportation. It is lack of resources, poverty, disease and death.

 

When they come to our land they have nothing to lose. They have left behind families and friends, but they come with the hope of finding a new life that will help them personally, and through them, their whole families back home.

 

If believers, they claim for themselves the promise to Abraham: "I will bless you … so that you will be a blessing" (Gen 12:2). They come after a hope, and they are not going to abandon that hope just because some laws are written against them.

 

The lack of provisions in the laws of the United States for a person in this situation to become a citizen is a burden not only to the undocumented, but also to all sorts of citizens who are in one way or another related or dependent on their lives--their labor, their activities, their jobs and their abilities--including "law abiding" employers and customers who enjoy their cheap services.

 

Further worrisome are the long delays in processing applications in cases that are legally provided by the law. Because of those delays, people who are in good standing come to be in bad standing. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people are out of status not by their commission, but rather due to bureaucratic delays and red tape.

 

Lawmakers must do something, but there are roads they must not follow.

 

The worst thing a lawmaker can do is to legislate under fear. National security is best served when freedom is allowed, when human rights are respected ,and when people are promoted to higher levels of personal development. Classifying people by race or national origin helps neither the classified nor the one who classifies.

 

Lawmakers should also avoid the trap of legislating to their own counties. The examples of Prince William County in Virginia and Hazleton, Pa., should not be followed elsewhere. Addressing illegal immigration in your "corner of America" will not solve the problems of the United States--nor will it solve the problems of your corner of America.

 

International migration is a social phenomenon that crosses national borders and affects two or more nation-states. To understand the problem and provide viable solutions, lawmakers need to be capable of transcending the local and national gaze. This is true more than ever in the current epoch of global migratory flows.

 

Finally, lawmakers should not legislate as if the only people who are breaking immigration laws are the illegal immigrants. They break the law, conceded. Yet, there are many "law abiding" citizens who find loopholes in the system in order to attract illegal aliens. When so many people are "breaking the law," isn't it time to change these outdated and inefficient laws?

 

When Jesus said "the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27), I presume he was referring to all forms of human legislation. Laws should never defeat humanity, but promote it. Laws need to respond to human needs. When human needs change, laws need to change. The 20th century has been described as the century of migrations. Yet, our laws still resemble the old paradigms and respond to old needs.

 

It is due time for lawmakers to resort to information and creativity. The immigration issue is not privative of the United States. Other countries are experiencing the same influx. Some of the laws of countries in Europe, Asia and Australia are to be studied carefully. Minds and spirits need to be called to working together to find a true solution to these problems.

 

These are difficult themes, but not impossible. If we abandon all sense of prerogative and pride, perhaps we will find an acceptable solution: one that is humane, one that understands and not denigrates and one that will open the flame of liberty for all.

 

Daniel Carro is Latino ministries Kingdom Advance ambassador for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board and professor of divinity at John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Va.

 

See Part 1: What Should Marlo Do?

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